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Environment

Italian held at Rome airport with endangered peregrine falcons

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ROME (Reuters) - An Italian citizen was stopped by police at Rome airport and reported to magistrates for trying to enter the country with two endangered southern Asian peregrine falcons worth hundreds of thousands of euros, the finance police said in a statement.

Police said the birds had been tagged with fake recognition rings, imitating those used to identify specimens bred legally in Spain.

The male and a female falcons were “black shaheens”, a non-migratory predator that cannot be sold in Italy, police said. The sale of the birds and their eggs would have yielded large profits.

“There is a niche market of people willing to pay dizzying amounts of money for these very rare species which cannot be found in Italy,” said Guardia di Finanza police colonel Stefano Ciotti.

The Italian man was stopped at Fiumicino airport after arriving on a flight from Dubai.

The pair of two-year-old falcons, probably captured in their natural habitat, were now in a safe place chosen by Italian magistrates, the police said.

Reporting by Angelo Amante and Antonio Denti; Editing by Gavin Jones and Alex Richardson

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